Growing Pains: Building a Marketing Agency from 1 to 10 Employees

office-spaceBuilding a vibrant marketing agency, like any business, is hard. There are more questions than answers, especially in the early days.

Most of us start out as solo entrepreneurs with a dream. We want freedom, flexibility and the ability to control and define our future. In many cases we’re willing to trade the financial security and peace of mind that comes from a stable career working for someone else.

But, with entrepreneurship comes many obstacles. Success growing your business breeds more unknowns. While you may have started your own agency because you are a talented and motivated practitioner, you now have to deal with the realities of being a business owner.

As you expand, and begin hiring staff and teaming up with contractors, you are faced with things such as accounting, legal, payroll, healthcare coverage, business financing, recruiting and retaining employees, and building strategic partnerships. 

You spend less time on the clients, and more time managing and growing the business. But as difficult and stressful as these formative years of an agency can be, there are few things in life more rewarding than watching your idea emerge into a viable business.

5 Tips to Help Ease the Pain

So, with that, here is a collection of tips specifically relevant to agency owners as you grow from 1 to 10 employees.

  1. Build a scalable infrastructure with reliable technology providers. Some of the biggest headaches I’ve experienced as an agency owner have been caused by phone and Internet companies. Understand that to most of these companies you are nothing more than a ticket number when problems arise. They rarely understand or care about your business problems.
  2. Know that the most important decisions you make in business involve people. Choose your employees, clients and partners with great care. Surround yourself with people who make you better, and share your vision and values.
  3. Look for funding when you don’t need it. Lending standards have become very constricting for entrepreneurs. Have a strong grasp on your financial needs and be proactive about putting funding in place.
  4. Take a long-term view of success when it comes to your personal finances. While some people can amass wealth in the early years as an entrepreneur, once you decide to add employees and expand what’s best for the business isn’t always what’s best for achieving your own personal financial goals. You have to be willing to make sacrifices to achieve a greater outcome down the road. Be patient and make sound business decisions. Your time will come.
  5. Take a keen interest in your agency’s finances. Keep a pulse on the financial health of the organization so you can effectively forecast cash flow and make calculated investments in office space, hardware, software and human resources as you grow.

Your Turn 

Are you a solo entrepreneur looking to grow? What questions do you have? What challenges do you face?

If you’ve built an agency to 10 employees and beyond, it would be great to hear your perspective too.

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